Educator Resources

Summer Camp Strategy: Planning for Change

2020 was a summer we won’t soon forget! Our community showed resilience like never before as businesses across the country launched a variety of virtual, outdoor, and in-person camps to meet the needs of their customers. New trends and topics emerged from Roblox, to chess, language arts, mindfulness, cooking, filmmaking, and crafting galore. We read heartfelt reviews and online testimonials from families who couldn’t imagine getting through the pandemic without countless moments of joy brought to them by brilliant artists and educators on Sawyer. 

Now with wider access to testing, new vaccines, and schools returning to in-person once again, parents are starting to breathe a sigh of relief for the summer to come. With a more hopeful outlook on summer 2021, there are still several unknowns that children’s activity providers will need to navigate. When it comes to building your summer schedule, you might be wondering: How do I decide between offering virtual or in-person camps? Which options do my customers prefer? What are the pros and cons to consider when offering both? Looking for more support to jumpstart your camp? Check out our ultimate guide to starting and running a kids camp.

Sawyer Says

Always put customer needs front and center. Survey families to see what is most appealing to them — be sure to ask questions about preferred pricing, schedules, and type of camps they want to see. Look at feedback you may have received from last summer and analyze booking trends to gauge the popularity of past activities. 

You’ll also need to factor in the availability of your staff and scheduling options for your space — whether physical or virtual. If you’re looking to return to in-person options, send an email to current and previous staff to check interest and availability. If you’re looking to offer a combination of virtual and in-person summer programs, make sure that your schedule supports this if you’re utilizing the same instructors across both options.

Below are some dos and don'ts to keep in mind no matter the direction you choose to explore. Parents will be open to choosing options that meet their child’s specific needs. Remember, summer is a great time to be innovative, flexible, and above fun! 

What direction are you taking this summer?

All-in for in-person activities

If you’re finding yourself saying, “I’m focusing on a return to in-person offerings this summer” keep these tips handy.

  • Do practice health and safety guidelines at all times
  • Do offer flexible refund policies to eliminate worries
  • Don’t overbook or under staff summer programs - make sure to have enough instructors for Covid contingency plans 
  • Don’t forget to secure all necessary supplies with enough time to prevent delayed shipments

Online everything

Hey, digital native! We see you. If you’re pivoting to virtual-only options, keep the following in mind.

  • Do focus on offering WOW moments that aren’t easily created in person
  • Do consider partnering with local in-person programs to provide an online learning component
  • If you aren’t able to offer something in-person or don’t have access to a physical space, consider working with fellow Sawyer providers to give parents a variety of options to create the perfect summer experience.
  • Don’t try to compete with in-person options
  • Focus on the audience you currently have to find ways to retain their attention in summer virtual offerings
  • Don’t forget to highlight the benefits of an online summer experience
  • Virtual programming is vacation and weatherproof
  • Great options for siblings or the whole family to enjoy together (when appropriate)

Best of both worlds

If you want to offer both options for customers, keep these do's and don'ts in mind.

  • Set up clear camp registration paths on your website — one for in-person camps and one for online camps
  • Make your schedule is crystal clear by clearly identifying your in-person and online activities
  • Do offer a variety of popular days and times across both types of services. For example, offer early times on weekends, alternate early afternoon evening classes with mornings on different days.
  • Don’t cannibalize your own offerings — if you’re testing both in-person and online options, schedule them to  make room for both in a family’s schedule. For example, If you offer a weekly in-person camp program from 9:00 AM-12:00 PM, you could test a limited schedule of online options after 1:00pm throughout the week so a parent could enroll in both options with your business. 
  • Don’t forget to offer incentives and perks for your most loyal customers

Still deciding

Not sure? It’s okay not to know — especially at a time when things change so quickly. Here are some ways to stay flexible while you work on a plan.

  • Focus on providing flexible ways for parents to show interest. If you want to gauge interest first, you could set up a general interest form or trial camp day to let families sample options before fully committing to a plan
  • Do competitive research to see what other businesses in your area are offering
  • Don’t try to reinvent the wheel — start with what has worked for you in the past 
  • Don’t forget to solidify your options as you see what drives the most enrollment

Tell us what you’re testing this summer — email and share with your fellow Sawyer providers on our Provider Connect Facebook Group!

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